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SpaceX encounters first launch delay due to coronavirus

Darrell Etherington

SpaceX has thus far managed to avoid much in the way of impact to its upcoming launch schedule despite the widespread global coronavirus pandemic. The company successfully launched 60 more of its Starlink satellites just last week, and appears to be on track for its current mid-to-late May launch schedule for the first Commercial Crew mission with NASA (pending an investigation into what went wrong with an early engine cut-off during its last launch).

On Tuesday, however, the Air Force's 45th Space Wing confirmed that the timing for SpaceX's upcoming SAOCOM launch, which was set to take off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California [Correction: this launch was set to take place ad Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida] on March 30 using a Falcon 9 rocket, has been put on "indefinite" hold due to the impact of the current coronavirus crisis.

It was inevitable that SpaceX launches and schedules would be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic: Already, NASA has had to pause work on some of its ongoing priority missions, including development of the Artemis program deep-space exploration spacecraft, and its James Webb Telescope project. While work continues on the Commercial Crew launch for now, NASA has been providing frequent updates about escalating measures to ensure the safety of its personnel and the public, so we'll keep you up to date on any additional developments.